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We interviewed a tech wizard who did make possible sending online content though the real coded token. So read the story of Mr.B. and meet Martijn Brouns, a man who easily turns his rosy dreams into digital reality.
CEO at Frommees
Follows for sports talents through Uscoutfor
Has a sustainable fantasy
Reads comic books
Traditional first question: who are you? What news have you to share with the world?
I am Martijn Brouns and one of my goals is to always have some new and interesting insight to share. I contribute to topics on media, films, gaming, arts, IT, sports, business, history, education and politics. On all other subjects I am a good listener, I think.
Tell us more about yourself. What influenced your desire to improve media area?
I always loved media. As a kid I was already reading books about how tv was made, reading the colophon of magazines and analyzing advertisements. I ran my own local newspaper when I was 18 and just loved to go after stories. The world of Media is so dynamic with an endless array of possibilities.
So many projects you’ve been working at! Seems that you are a digital addict. How do all the ideas come to you?
It can go two ways. I am a gun for hire on most commercial cases. So whenever a company has a problem and they need a creative media solution they can call me. I am great in thinking out of the box, mostly because I just don’t realize there is a box to begin with. I always try to do one commercial assignment and then one for myself. That way I don’t get too commercial and can play with new ideas that aren’t necessarily very commercial. Ideas for these projects can come from anything, things I see or read, somebody telling me of a problem that needs fixing, or a dream that sticks with me during the day.
The story of Frommees amazes! Was the idea of combining online and real world successful?
Note:Frommees has a clue in its name – ‘from’ and ‘me’. In the simplest possible terms, a Frommee is a physical keepsake of digital content. It is a token with a unique code printed on its back, and once you enter this at Frommees.com (post-registration), you’re asked to add something you like to the Frommee. This could be a video, picture, or any kind of digital content. After this you pass your Frommee to a friend, or leave it somewhere to be found by a stranger. (From TheNextWeb)
From a business point of view not really. It attracted about 5 clients that were into it. These 5 clients where responsible for 20.000+ Frommees being distributed, but the project ran out of money eventually. It could have been great if it had attracted one big multinational, but that was not the case. We had an invitation from Airbnb two years ago to present Frommees in Denmark, but there was a sudden change of management and the invitation was cancelled. That would have been my dream client. From a creative startup point of view Frommees was the most awesome thing ever. It opened many doors for me. It gave me an opportunity to travel, learn about international business, running startups and the most cherished thing: I got a lot of international friends out of it. The other day I was talking to Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon, and I thanked him for his enthusiasm for Frommees at the start. He was in the jury that granted me my first award at The Next Web Conference. He asked me if it had become a success, I said no. He said: “I didn’t think it would be.” I laughed and said, “Yes, but I am still in business” and we both agreed that this was at least something.
The application has already celebrated its 5th Birthday. Did your dream come true?
Frommees as an idea was a dream coming true. I envisioned a whole new product, a community and a game. It was both hardware and software. It had very good storytelling elements into it and it showed the strength of my whole team. It was ahead of its time by far. Even now I see elements of it turning up in new startups. It encompassed my vision for a collective connected society. I had fun and it is deeply rooted in my creative genes. I will return back to the drawing board for a new version once I have some free time.
What promotion campaign did you launch? Did you have your KPIs achieved?
Because it was an offline product, I also went for an offline campaign during an event for the Red Cross called “Serious Request” in 2011 in Leiden. It is a big deal in the Netherlands and because one of the great aspects of Frommees is its ability to generate income for charity. I used it in my launching campaign. Frommees ended up gathering more than 3.500 euro’s worth in pennies for the Red Cross within a week, just by people registering our little coins and sharing them with their friends. It was a huge success.
Is Frommees still popular?
I log on to the system from time to time and see that some are still changing hands. So my little travelers are still going to places. But I should really print a new badge of Frommees and for instance distribute them via an Instagram campaign to get it going again. I haven’t done the combination Instagram and Frommees yet, so who knows.
How did the idea of the another startup, Uscoutfor, come to you?
I was talking to a client of mine for whom I had made an e-learning music program. She told me about how her boyfriend was an ex-pro soccer player and that in scouting for soccer talent everything still was done on paper and that the inequality in sport scouting was huge. Within minutes the idea for Uscoutfor was born. I asked to meet her boyfriend and we became business partners and it has been an amazing ride since.
The application allows to follow amateur players easier. That’s great! How many professional sport scouts have found their talents since 2014, when the app was launched?
I am not sure, normally clubs will not tell us who they have scouted, because if you find a raw talent, you want to polish it first. Competition in sports scouting is huge, so you do not want your competitors to know who you are lining up. But what I got back from the feedback is that scouts are getting used to the products and the idea we are offering them more opportunities to scout. We are building new tools to emphasize on that idea. Our new goal is to offer eyes on every field and not let one talent go to waste. About 30% of Dutch first league clubs are using our scouting tool, so that is saying something I guess.
Which platforms are used the most by your users?
We still have a great presence on IOS, but that is probably because our product has more functions on IOS. Early next year, our Android proposition will be equal. Than we will see who wins.
What is your monetization strategy?
There is no immediate strategy behind the scouting part, we want to build a presence within the sports community. When we have that, we can expand on every normal social media strategy. So either advertising or big date research.
Share please the app’s statistic.
Most users are between 16-24 male and like soccer. Which I am grateful for because we build it for a 16-24 male soccer playing audience.
What are you working at now? Do you have any plans for the future?
I have some very nice products in the pipeline, both for Uscoutfor as for my other startups. Uscoutfor will present a very high tech sport solution that will transform the whole field of sports grassroots up in January 2017. You definitely want to see that. I am hoping to go into VR by next year with a new enterprise. I also have some other physical products that I want to bring to the market. They will be pretty disruptive once they hit the market, so I am hoping 2017 will see at least 2 new products going live + some huge extensions on current products.
I know, that one of your first projects was a social experiment “Grof Geld”. The idea was to ask people what they would do for 10 euro’s. What was the strangest answer you’ve got?
Haha, that brings back memories. We were in a Dutch seaside city and met a few guys that were really crazy. The first one bragged he would lick total strangers ears for 10 euro so we filmed that. Than his friends said they would hold electrical wire 20 times. We filmed that. By that time the last guy with the biggest mouth said that he would let an elephant eat a cucumber out of his ass at the nearby circus. Every one was cracking up. I really thought that the owner of the circus would never allow it, but he was up for it. So there I was filming a guy putting a cucumber up his ass to feed an elephant.
Btw, what would you do for 10 euro’s? :)
I have seen too much during the running of that series to give any satisfying answer to that. But I had always hoped that someone would actually say something noble like give it to someone who really needs it, or buy something for someone who really needs it. But nobody ever did, people either didn’t know or said the stupidest things. That’s the biggest learning I took out of this experiment. The camera makes you do stupid things and people really forget about the great social benefit they can create with having a camera. It is one the biggest problems of reality shows I believe. So much more good, could be done and showed, but people really forget about it.
What projects are you the most proud with?
I once made a documentary about roadworkers. Just guys that work on the road in the night. It was amazing, pretty dangerous but so interesting to register on camera. Every shot was a winning shot in my humble opinion. Although I had made programs before this item, this one was the first and only one I was completely satisfied with being my own DP on that.
Where do you find inspiration? How did the idea of a Secret Agent A.A.P. come to you?
I don’t really need inspiration. Give me one word or one question and I will give you a complete product, business case or idea within seconds. I don’t know where it comes from, but I always have a 360 view on anything really fast. The hardest part is to transform this idea into something my team or other people can work with. With regard to Secret Agent A.A.P. the national library had a problem that they could not asses the knowledge of media amongst young children. They wanted to test their skills and make them aware of online dangers, but only had some academical theories available. They asked me how to test children and I came up with the story lines for A.A.P that combined the academical with a fun and entertaining storyline. It started out as a click-through adventure, but I wanted to make a full impact cartoon. Now 3 years later the third instalment of the cartoon series is awaiting its premiere and I am really proud of this little monkey.
How do you wind down?
I am a family man hanging out with the people I love is the best way to relax. I also love to read comic books and watch movies. By the time I finish them, I am powered up again to go at it.
In your opinion, three people who’ve changed the IT world, are:
Of course there’s the big guys like Gates, Jobs and Cerf, but for me personally I would go with Will Wright who created Sim City and the Sims. Those games really got me hooked to the computer. Larry Page and the guys at Google for building such a powerfool online media company and now Zuckerberg for showing the industry there is a future in VR with Occulus Rift and now pushing its social possibilities.
Thanks Martijn for the interview! We’ll wait for your another dream come true :)